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Friday, July 8, 2011

Understanding Bipolar — You Don’t Know the Half of It

“You don’t know the half of it” is a once-common phrase that is generally applied to negative things. It usually means that you don’t really know how bad it is. It is easy to see how bipolar people can use the phrase to describe how horrible bipolar disorder is to someone who does not experience it.

I imagine many people will expect this article to be a rant on how people without bipolar disorder have no idea how bad we have it. I am sorry. It is not. It is for those who already know how bad it can be. They may not know the half of it either.

I often joke that depression is so terrible that we sometimes wish we were dead and we act so badly during mania that everyone else wishes we were. It is good for a laugh because we all know it has some truth in it. The horrible symptoms of depression and mania when in disorder are well known. They include physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social, and career/financial dysfunction.

There are many who argue over the choice of tools to address depression and bipolar, but nearly everyone agrees on one thing: depression and bipolar are horrible mental illnesses that need to be removed from our lives. They don’t know the half of it.

I know bipolar disorder well. I had my first full blown manic episode 46 years ago and my first major depressive episode ten years after that. I am all too familiar with the devastation wreaked on my own life and those around me that both the manic and depressive sides of bipolar disorder contributed to. It nearly cost my own life.

Although it takes a great deal of understanding to get from crisis through managed stage and eventually to recovery, we can never know all there is to know about bipolar disorder. Even if we did, we would not know the half of it.

In conclusion of the largest study to date, the National Institute of Mental Health said: “According to the researchers, these results indicate that in spite of modern, evidence-based treatment, bipolar disorder remains a highly recurrent, predominantly depressive illness.”  This is why in spite of achieving recovery, bipolar disorder is believed to be a life-long condition. They don’t know the half of it.

After 35 years of suffering interspersed with good times, I set out to find a better way. When I made it my career to understand bipolar about ten years ago, I gathered people with depression and bipolar together with family, friends, doctors, therapists, and others who were also looking for better answers. After talking with thousands of people, I came to realize that I didn’t know the half of it either.

Having achieved the recovery that everyone said was the best I could do, I found myself unwilling to accept a diminished life in fear of the next crisis only a bad night’s sleep away. If I was going to put so much effort into trying to keep bipolar suppressed, I wondered what would happen if I put the effort into understanding the other half that I hoped was there.

Many of us continue to explore not only what works in order to achieve recovery, but also how we might use the same tools to get beyond it. In the process, we have discovered new ways of using existing tools and have created  new tools that are much more powerful. We found that there is another half to the bipolar experience, where our understanding helps us remove the suffering, while we gain the ability to function completely in all states from the highest high to the deepest low. I call it Bipolar IN Order.

Over the years we have refined the tools and strategies to help others make Bipolar IN Order a reality in their lives. With each new success, we gain a deeper understanding of how to assess people to determine where they are on the path from Crisis through Managed Stage to Recovery (Bipolar Disorder), but also the three stages beyond that, Freedom, Stability, and Self-Mastery (Bipolar IN Order). We have also learned that tools are stage specific. Some tools are used differently according to the stage, while other tools only apply to more advanced stages and should not be used while in disorder.

It took almost ten years, but we did prove that Bipolar IN Order is real in our own lives and now have a community of people who have successfully made the transition from bipolar disorder to Bipolar IN Order. We can now challenge the paradigm that claims that Bipolar is an illness. Bipolar Disorder is a horrible mental illness, but Bipolar IN Order is a healthy state.

Bipolar itself is not a brain dysfunction, but the ability to experience a range of energy and emotion that is wider than  what “normal” people experience. The range is not the problem; it is the lack of understanding and inability to choose how to react to it that for so many is in disorder. When they are only taught the disordered half, they see it as an illness and struggle with the vicious cycle of crisis and recovery. When they are taught how to get Bipolar In Order their suffering ends and they discover that bipolar is an advantage in their lives that they would never give up.

If all you know is bipolar disorder it is time to find out about Bipolar IN Order. You will soon be using a new phrase about bipolar: “Not Half Bad.”

Posted by: Tom Wootton at 10:28 am

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